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Big East Baseball Tournament: St. John's faces a familiar foe in the first round in Brooklyn

Seton Hall comes into the league's championship series as one of the most balanced squads.

The St. John's baseball team seeks to capture its eighth Big East Tournament crown when they start play tonight at 7 p.m. in a first-round game against Seton Hall at MCU Park in Brooklyn.

The Red Storm (38-13) finished the regular season this past weekend and won two of three games against the Pirates to secure the No. 2 seed in the tournament. Seton Hall is the third seed. Top-seeded Creighton plays No. 4 Xavier at 3 p.m. in Brooklyn.

St. John's and Seton Hall are certainly no strangers. The two schools have played 136 times in a series that dates back to 1956. The Red Storm hold the overall edge 71-65, including an 8-6 mark in the Big East Tournament.

The Red Storm know they will have their hands full as Seton Hall had the conference's best offense and is arguably the league's most balanced team. The Pirates hit a league-best .304 and scored a league-high seven runs per game.

But the Pirates only scored 11 runs in three games this past weekend against the Red Storm, dropping two of three in South Orange.

D.J. Ruhlman leads Seton Hall with a .364 batting average. Sal Annunziata leads the team in doubles (16), home runs (5) and RBI (48).

Seton Hall's pitching staff isn't too shabby either and is a strikeout machine. Pirates pitchers collected 354 strikeouts in 450 innings. The staff sports a league-low 2.94 ERA and opponents are hitting just .237 against them.

Josh Prevost leads the rotation at 11-2 with a 1.76 ERA and will start tonight's game. He is one of fourteen players - and the only Big East selection - on the College Baseball Pitcher of the Year Watch List.

As for the Red Storm, they come into the tournament with some hot bats of their own.

St. John's has batted .320 as a team in their last 40 (32-8). The team ranks eighth in the nation with a .399 on-base percentage thanks to a league-high 238 walks.

Big East Rookie of the Year Michael and First Team selection Michael Donadio leads the St. John's attack. The outfielder leads the conference in runs (49) and ranks second in triples (4), third in slugging percentage (.503), fourth in on-base percentage (.443), is tied for fourth in home runs (5), tied for fourth in walks (30), fifth in RBI (45) and ninth in batting average (.339).

James Lomangino (6-4, 3.86) will oppose Prevost in the first-round game.

The righthander is just coming off a solid outing against the Pirates in Saturday's series opener. He worked six innings and allowed two runs on two hits with five strikeouts.

Should St. John's beat Seton Hall, they would then play the winner of the Creighton-Xavier contest Friday at 7 p.m. A loss puts the Red Storm into the loser's bracket of the double elimination tournament.